ENR has named Vicki O’Leary, Iron Workers (IW) general organizer for safety and diversity, a 2018 top 25 newsmaker. The honor is in recognition of her work through the organization’s initiatives to level the playing field for ironworker women and her thought leadership in the building trades.

IW general president Eric Dean brought O’Leary on board to spearhead diversity initiatives in 2016.

“Vicki is passionate about changing the culture to ensure ironworker women are on an equal footing,” says Dean. “She’s a dynamic individual who gets things done.”

O’Leary took the lead in launching several IW initiatives to expand diversity. The IW and employer-ironworker partnership the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) launched a paid maternity leave program, the first of its kind in the building trades. She also worked with leadership to rollout the “Be That One Guy” program to fight workplace harassment that threatens safety and productivity.

“It is a safety issue” says O’Leary. “Workplace harassment is a dangerous distraction and in our line of work, you can’t afford to be distracted. When ironworkers are distracted from their work full of potential hazards, it could lead to accidents.”

The program enlists male workers to take a stand against bullying and harassment of any kind. “We want them to not be afraid to speak up and tell a bully to knock it off,” says O’Leary.

The program is multi-faceted. Town hall meetings will be held under the program to encourage an open forum for dialog and education. O’Leary worked to include bystander training and intervention best practices and protocols in key IW safety training such as new officers, shop stewards and safety director training, which will be expanded to all local union managers this year. O’Leary and the IW leadership believe such initiatives will not only make jobsites safer, but also improve the retention of women.

O’Leary is also the chairwoman of the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) Tradeswomen’s Committee. Through her leadership, NABTU’s Women Building Nations conference has become a major event in the industry for education and support for tradeswomen. She continues to extend Iron Workers innovation and thought leadership in safety and diversity to all building trades through her role in the NABTU committee, according to IW.

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